Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Watson, Malone

The Nuggets opened their NBA title defense on Saturday night by beating the Lakers for the ninth straight time, and Jamal Murray warns that they weren’t at their best in the 11-point victory, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. Throughout the first half, Denver couldn’t convert on open three-point opportunities as L.A. constantly threw double teams at Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets were just 6-of-23 from long distance in the first 24 minutes, and Murray believes the increased playoff excitement played a role.

“I think it’s just a greater energy (at the beginning), you know what I’m saying? You put a little bit more on your jump shots. I did for sure,” Murray said. “I remember last year, Game 1 against Minnesota, it was the same kind of thing. You’re just anticipating so much energy, so much adrenaline running through your body, sometimes you’ve just gotta relax and just take a shot like it’s practice. I wasn’t shooting like it was practice in the first half.”

The bright side for the Nuggets is that they only trailed by three points at halftime despite all those misses. Murray believes calmness and execution are the keys to the series, and he said he had no sense of panic when his team fell behind by 12 points.

“I just think we know what we want. We’re not trying to anything different. We’re not trying to, like, make stuff up,” Murray said. “Everybody knows where they should be, and they know (if they are) where they should be, they’ll get open shots. So that’s the beauty of this team. It’s just pure basketball. There’s no fighting like how it is in the park … where you don’t know where the shot’s gonna come from.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. is grateful for the support of his Nuggets teammates amid an excruciating week for his family, Durando states in a separate story. After his brother, Jontay Porter, was banned for life from the NBA for gambling-related violations, Michael was in a courtroom Friday as another brother, Coban, was sentenced to six years in prison for killing a woman last year in a drunk driving crash. “Each one of them texted me separately and just told me they’ve got my back. If I need anything, they’ve got me,” Porter said. “Yeah, a lot of people were reaching out. Friends, family. So to have these guys understand why I missed practice yesterday and just have my back has been big for me.”
  • Peyton Watson saw very limited action during last year’s title run, so this series marks his first real taste of the NBA playoffs, notes Ryan McFadden of The Denver Post. The second-year swingman, who entered the rotation after the loss of Bruce Brown and Jeff Green in free agency, has become a valuable defender and an elite shot blocker off the bench. “I don’t think anybody questioned my ability or my capabilities to go out there and perform and help our team win. I think everybody’s question was, ‘Is he gonna be able to handle it mentally?’” Watson said. “I think that’s the part I’m most far along with now.”
  • Before Saturday’s game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone talked to reporters about entering the playoffs for the first time without his father, longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone, who died in October, Durando adds in another piece.
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